The evil Doctor Strange featured in Marvel’s What If…? episode 4 is a warning sign for what could happen to Scarlet Witch following the events of WandaVision. Just as Stephen Strange succumbs to the power he consumes at the Library of Cagliostro, Wanda Maximoff is vulnerable to the supernatural forces of the Darkhold as she learns about her own Chaos Magic and her dangerous dimension-altering abilities.
Even though the events of Disney+’s What If…? series take place in alternative realities separate from the main Marvel Cinematic Universe, the themes of each episode point out central aspects of the MCU’s characters. Just as episode 2 showed off T’Challa’s inherent nobleness and episode 3 explored Nick Fury’s tenacity, episode 4 dives deeper into what defines Doctor Strange. This time, however, the series takes a darker turn and singles out the hero’s arrogance, which leads him to become obsessed with power and control over his trauma.
In the Doctor Strange movie, the Ancient One reminds Stephen Strange that his ambition can turn into hubris, but the Sorcerer Supreme eventually accepts his fate and becomes a more humble person. Not so in the What If?… version of Doctor Strange, whose loss of his love Christine Palmer makes him even more motivated to seek out power from studying magic than the loss of his surgically gifted hands. Evil Strange‘s quest to resurrect his deceased love corrupts his mind, as the library O’Bengh tells him, and the use of reality-altering powers to cope with trauma presents an eerie reflection of Wanda Maximoff from the main MCU.
Grief is the factor that motivates both Stephen and Wanda to study the dark arts, and it’s also what drives these two to uncover and unleash the full potential of their magical powers. Wanda doesn’t outright destroy reality as evil Doctor Strange does, but she does distort it by creating a Hex around the town of Westview. Furthermore, their sadness also overwhelms them so much that they fail to comprehend the danger they’re causing to innocent lives and the world around them. The difference is that Strange had to first seek out and harness the knowledge of the dark arts, whereas Wanda unleashed her Chaos Magic in a fit of anguish.
However, WandaVision ends with the newly crowned Scarlet Witch studying the ominous Darkhold, a scene that more than resembles Doctor Strange’s own studies of the books at the Library of Cagliostro. Wanda is shown coming to terms with her trauma and moving on from her past grief in a way that places her closer to What If?…‘s good Doctor Strange or the mainstream MCU Strange. Still, though, evil Strange still manages to overpower his counterpart, and the Darkhold still poses a threat as a corrupting influence, especially considering how powerful Wanda was even before she opened up the book. What If?… may not have any immediate consequences for the MCU, but its stories still serve as reminders of the potential future of Marvel’s characters.